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Amazon shows how man, machine co-exist at state-of-the-art fulfillment center

Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 02, 2019

NORTH RANDALL, Ohio — Amazon pulled back the veil on its year old fulfillment and robotics center in North Randall on Wednesday afternoon, providing a glimpse into how the facility has not only transformed the once struggling community but also demonstrate how its employees and robots work hand-in-hand.

Since opening in mid-September 2018, the 855,000 square foot behemoth built on the grave of a shuttered shopping mall has been humming, pumping out thousands of packages all day, every day. Just a few months after opening – and by the time the busy holiday shopping season got underway – the fulfillment center became fully operational. The facility employs roughly 2,000 people and deploys hundreds, if not thousands, of robots to assist with order fulfillment and transport.

During a tour for local, state and federal dignitaries on Wednesday afternoon, Amazon officials demonstrated the process in which orders are completed and shipped out for delivery.

“You can see behind me on each of these four floors we have thousands of Amazon robots which are the orange boxes on the bottom of the inventory storage shelves,” said Mark Huber, the general manager for Amazon’s North Randall fulfillment center.

Huber referenced the robotic inventory movers, which resemble giant-sized Roombas that shuttle large stacks of product throughout the facility. The robots weigh more than 300 pounds and can lift nearly three times their weight.

The purpose of the robotic helpers aren’t to replace the jobs of their human counterparts. Instead, the robots help supplement the work done by humans, Huber said.

“Amazon has always been focused when we introduce technology on making our associate's jobs safer and more productive,” Huber said. “The robots, for instance, will bring the product to the associate to eliminate the need for the associate to walk through the warehouse to find that product. In 2012, when Amazon introduced the robots and since then, Amazon has hired 300,000 associates. We make that a point when our associates come into the door every morning that their job is important and that they make deliberate decisions that impact our customers.”

The decisions to bring the fulfillment center to the site of the shuttered Randall Park Mall has also had major ramifications for the economies of neighboring cities.

“It means everything, especially when we were a community that was told to give up,” said North Randall Mayor David Smith. “I nicknamed this community the sleeping giant. The nickname for this project was Goliath. Goliath has been awakened. We’re doing very well as a community. We’re well respected now where in the past we were not.”

Smith said the existence of the fulfillment center has allowed the city to improve its safety forces, keep up with maintenance and embark on projects the municipality previously could not even consider.

The North Randall fulfillment center joins a similar facility that opened in nearby Euclid. Construction is also expected to get underway soon on a new fulfillment center to be located on the site of the former Rolling Acres Mall in Akron.

At Wednesday’s ‘grand opening,’ Amazon also presented the superintendent of Warrensville Heights City Schools with a $20,000 check to assist with the district’s science, technology, engineering, math and arts curriculum. Amazon officials said the company has provided $190,000 in monetary and in-kind donations to local organizations in the Cleveland area.